The Perfect Holiday Quick Bread

December 11, 2013

If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.

Today: A whole wheat, barely sweet quick bread that you'll want on hand as an edible gift, healthy breakfast, and anytime snack -- seasonal fruit optional.

Molasses-Yogurt Quick Bread on Food52

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Let's take a moment to dissect the etymology of our old friend the quick bread.

By definition it should be quick; you want to simply mix wet and dry and then combine, and you don't want to leave your home in search of ingredients. Quick breads should be easily stored not only in your proverbial back pocket but also in the back of your mind: memorize quantities, then use that template until the day you head to the big, roomy kitchen in the sky. (Convince Saint Peter to let you in by baking him a loaf -- that's how I plan to do it.) 

Molasses-Yogurt Bread on Food52

It should also, let's call a spade a spade here, be bread. If you want to bake a cake in a loaf pan, that's fine, but it is not bread. Bread does not mean a cup of sugar and half as much oil. I like my quick breads whole wheat and just slightly sweet and, yes, moist (sorry, I know). I want to eat them for breakfast and then go conquer the world!

I recently found myself with odd bits of fruit, which I wanted to turn into a sturdy loaf. So I searched "Mark Bittman quick bread" because that's what you do when you need something free of bells, whistles, or fuss. And I found this lovely little recipe. 

Molasses-Yogurt Bread on Food52

I have baked this bread roughly 20 times in two months. It has two liquid ingredients and four dry. It stays moist (sorry again) for days, and freezes well. Its heartiness comes from whole wheat flour, cornmeal, molasses (unsung, I say!), and yogurt (or milk, if you're out). Everyone loves it: hungry coworkers, picky friends, the barista you have a crush on. It is infinitely adaptable. It is very hard to mess up.

As far as edible gifts go, yogurt bread is something of a dark horse. It's unassuming, not as cute as cookies or as sexy as liqueur. But your friends will appreciate a present that doesn't shove them forcibly into a sugary daze. 

Molasses-Yogurt Bread on Food52 

Here's your plan: Make one large trip to the store and stock up on molasses and yogurt, plus flour and cornmeal if you need them. Bake many loaves. Mix the dry ingredients in a wide-bottomed bowl, incorporating the wet in grand, sweeping motions, not so much stirring as tracing half-moons that end with a flick of the wrist. Your not-overmixed dough, rife with baking soda, will fizz, softly, like a science experiment. 

Speckle it with cranberries if you'd like to be festive, spices and apples when you crave comfort. Bake it for an hour or so. When it's done, a tester should come out clean, and the loaf should feel soft to the touch but not goo-filled; it should hold its own against a gentle press.  

Molasses-Yogurt Bread on Food52

Please let it cool completely before slicing or wrapping. Please keep a loaf for yourself. Slice it in the morning and spread it with the best butter you can find. You will then be fully prepared to conquer the world -- or at least the holiday season.

Molasses-Yogurt Quickbread on Food52

Yogurt Bread with Molasses

Very lightly adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007)

Makes one loaf

2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat, or a mix of whole wheat and rye)
1/2 cup medium- or coarse-grind cornmeal
1 generous teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 2/3 cups whole milk yogurt, or 1 1/2 cups whole milk + 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
Optional: 1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, chopped fruit, or nuts
Butter, for greasing the pan

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Eric Moran

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Carol
  • Lee
  • jackie
  • EL
  • Sherman
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



Carol November 30, 2020
I love the idea of having both cornmeal and molasses in bread. Sort of like the anadama bread taste that I am craving! Problem is that I have celiac disease and cannot have the wheat or rye flours in the recipe. I did see the mention of buckwheat and got so excited as it is gluten free! How about a combination of buckwheat flour and King Arthur 1:1 gluten free flour? Also the cornmeal of course? I do use a lot of buttermilk in my recipes. Would I use the same amount as the yogurt that is called for? So excited to try this.
Lee November 24, 2020
and one more question. How about adding yellow raisins, dried cranberries, or nuts?
Kristen M. November 24, 2020
Definitely. My favorite version that Marian used to make at Food52 was with raw cranberries, and we'd eat slices with soft salted butter or soft cheeses. But dried fruit and nuts would also be wonderful.
Lee November 24, 2020
could I use buttermilk instead of yogurt?
Kristen M. November 24, 2020
Yes, it looks like that whole milk + vinegar alternative in the ingredients is meant to mimic buttermilk so it should be great.
jackie April 13, 2016
my bread did not rise as much as the one had that slight fizzle described when adding wet to dry ingredients but it was very craggy and did not have much height.......what am I missing?
EL February 2, 2015
I just have to thank you so much for this simple recipe that provides me with a wonderful experience. I had some leftover Lebneh and did not have molasses. I used Trader Joe's agave-maple sweetener. This is to live for! Thanks!
Sherman December 15, 2013
If I wanted to make this bread for my diabetic mother [type II], what might I substitute for the molasses?
Marian B. December 15, 2013
I'm not sure about that -- what do you usually use as a sugar substitute? I wonder if you could use unsweetened apple sauce -- this could add some natural sweetness. If you want it to be 100% sugar-free, you could play around with increasing the yogurt, or using 1/2 cup olive oil instead of the molasses. I'm not familiar with diabetic-friendly baking, so I'm sorry I can't be of more help!
nitya December 15, 2013
Marian,your yogurt bread reminds me of my yogurt cake and the one that i had recently baked had dried cranberries and your recipe has inspired me to bake a bread in my non-conventional oven, which more like a bundt pan and always makes ring cakes, but for once it will be a bundt bread.In ahmedabad i might not find the molasses but will have to think of something else.In place of cornmeal i would like to use semolina/cream of wheat and see how it turns out.Thank you for the great idea.(actually you have helped me crack my puzzle of baking bread in my bundt pan oven)
Marian B. December 15, 2013
Yes, you could definitely use semolina! If you have date syrup where you are, you may be able to use that. Honey also works! Good luck -- keep me posted on how it turns out!
ChuckT December 15, 2013
Because of the size of the crystals in kosher salt, you're consuming a bit less sodium than you would with an equivalent quantity of regular salt. I've been using it for years and find it infinitely more flavorful than regular salt.
Marian B. December 15, 2013
Good to know -- thanks, ChuckT!
Vicky K. December 14, 2013
Could you please tell me what is up with the relatively new fad surrounding kosher salt? What is it supposed to do differently? I recently used some in a soup, and I admit that I was a bit heavy handed with it, but the result was inedible for the particular sharpness or almost chemical taste. It was Mortons. Maybe they dont do kosher right (?) ;)
Marian B. December 14, 2013
You know, I don't know a whole lot about kosher salt. This would be a great question for the hotline!
Suman N. December 14, 2013
Oh, and the bread looks delicious too.
Marian B. December 15, 2013
Thank you!!
Suman N. December 14, 2013
Are you me Marian? Those lines you use to describe yourself suit me to a tee.
Annerieke W. December 14, 2013
Hi Marian, here in the Middle East I can only get fruit molasses (grape, mulberry, date, pomegranate, carob). I have never had American style molasses, do you have any idea which fruit taste would work best and if it is a substitute at all?
Marian B. December 14, 2013
If date molasses is like date syrup, you could probably use that! It's a little thinner than the molasses we have here (which is quite viscous), so you may need to add a bit less than 1/2 cup. Let me know if you give it a try!
DessertByCandy December 14, 2013
Waiting to cool is the hardest part! Saw the post last night and that was what I baked first thing this morning. Will report back on outcome.
DessertByCandy December 14, 2013
Thank you for the most wonderful inspiration. I just had a slice and it was very comforting on this dreary day. I only very roughly followed the recipe and used a blend of flours for more complex taste. Breakfast for the next few days are taken care of!
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup dark rye flour
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
1/4 cup toasted wheat germs
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup russet apples
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
Marian B. December 14, 2013
Nice! I love buckwheat flour. Glad it brought you some comfort!
Gayathri December 12, 2013
Do you think I could replace the molasses here with melted jaggery?
Marian B. December 13, 2013
Oh wow, yes -- I love jaggery! I would definitely give that a try, although it might be a little less thick than molasses, so perhaps add a little less than 1/2 cup. Let me know how it turns out!
Amanda S. December 12, 2013
ugh Marian you wax such poetic
Marian B. December 15, 2013
oh, stop.
Kristen M. December 11, 2013
My favorite of the 20 times Marian made this was the day we ate half a loaf, alternately burying it under slabs of Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam cheese and very expensive-seeming French butter. This stuff is so good!
Kenzi W. December 13, 2013
I sustained myself through the pop-up with yogurt bread and butter sandwiches! It was like a fancy power bar, and I loved it so much.
latenac December 11, 2013
Perfect timing I was considering baking something that we could have for breakfast tomorrow and had some cranberries leftover from our CSA share.
Marian B. December 13, 2013
adavis135 December 11, 2013
Hmm. I need to brush up on my kitchen chemistry--what do you think the effect would be if I used the non-fat greek yogurt that's in my fridge?
Marian B. December 13, 2013
I think you *could* use it, but I definitely recommend the full fat yogurt -- especially since this has no other fat in it. I think the fat in the yogurt contributes to the really great texture. But it definitely shouldn't break or anything. Please let me know how it turns out if you try it!
Kenzi W. December 11, 2013
I've never read a description so pretty about not over-mixing. Does it count as a holiday gift if I keep all of the loaves for myself?
Marian B. December 11, 2013
mrslarkin December 11, 2013
nooooo, not the "m" word. Seriously though, I will make this for tomorrow's Hobbit party.
Kenzi W. December 11, 2013
Moist moist moist.
Marian B. December 11, 2013
Please tell me everything about this hobbit party! P.S. I once had a pet tree frog named Bilbo.
mrslarkin December 11, 2013
Details remain unclear. Most likely, several ring-shaped foods. Ronzoni pasta rings (the only box of rings in the entire pasta aisle, so clearly this was meant to be). Also, onion rings and peach chewy candy rings.

This article provides a host of ideas:
Marian B. December 13, 2013
One quick bread to rule them all, one quick bread to find them, one quick bread to bring them all, and in the darkness, bind them?
mrslarkin December 13, 2013
whoa. epic.

made my quick bread yesterday. i like it. reminds me of pumpernickel - or did i screw something up?
Marian B. December 14, 2013
Did you use rye flour? I can see that!